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Not So Fast! What Trump’s Tweet Is Really Saying About the ‘Comey Tapes’


Bloomberg‘s breaking news this morning must have felt fairly absolving for those in the anti-Comey Tapes camp. They’re not real. They never existed. President Donald Trump fibbed it up again.

Well, not so fast.  Let’s forget about that anonymously-sourced report and concentrate on what the president actually said. Just moments ago, he tweeted:

Now, to begin with, as an attorney and legal theorist, I can easily tell this is a very carefully phrased and lawyered tweet and reads more like a statement of someone being interrogated. It’s altogether out of character for President Trump. The phrase “I have no idea,” suggests a level of less-than-complete assurance and braggadocio that just doesn’t jibe with the present presidential seal. There also aren’t any typos.

But attitude and flourish aside, let’s concentrate on and parse a more important phrase contained in the tweets. Trump wrote:

“I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

That’s not exactly the same as saying the tapes aren’t real or never existed. In fact, this statement doesn’t even touch on the existence of the tapes at all. The immediately preceding sentence about Trump’s lack of knowledge (“I have no idea…”) only adds more wiggly weasel room into the equation.

To spell it out, a few possible scenarios allowed by Trump’s statement here are: (1) someone else made the tapes; (2) someone else has the tapes; (3) someone destroyed the tapes; (4) Trump doesn’t know if the tapes are in someone else’s possession or if they are currently destroyed.

Maybe those scenarios are fanciful. Maybe not. The tense in which President Trump is speaking here is important. There’s nothing categorical about the tapes’ existence in any event. And the entire statement is extremely subtly crafted, as if written by someone with an eye for legal distinctions.

And let’s face it: Trump’s been around enough lawyers by now to have learned some nuance by osmosis at least.

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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